Lawrence put restrictions in place, braced for celebrations - KCTV5 News

Lawrence put restrictions in place, braced for celebrations

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Lawrence was bracing for a celebration tonight.

City officials are well aware that one of the biggest watch parties is going to take place on Massachusetts Street, which is why the Lawrence Police Department has put a few restrictions in place for Saturday’s game against number one seed Villanova.

Firstly, there’s a glass ban. This means plastic cups will be replacing all glass bottles and cups at every bar and restaurant.

Secondly, there’s a rooftop ban. Especially in the event of a KU win, the police are prohibiting anyone from being up on rooftops in the downtown area.

Thirdly, there will be no traffic or parking on Mass Street. Police said the five-block stretch of road will be closed off at 5 a.m. on Saturday morning.

Any vehicles parked along Mass Street between 6th and 11th will be towed.

It will be the first time the street has been closed for a Final Four celebration. The police said this is the safest option for both pedestrians and drivers.

“That way we can keep the street clear from any traffic and create a safer area for people to celebrate, in the event that KU wins,” said Officer Drew Fennelly.

“This is our first time closing down downtown,” said Capt. Troy Squire. “There are a lot of safety measures that go into this outside of just putting signs up and some barricades.”

He said vehicles have always been the biggest problem during events like this, as people try to leave the area. He said that, with things that have taken place in the past few years, they’d rather be safe than sorry.

“In light of things happening nationally with either terrorist events or drunk drivers and vehicles being used to harm or kill people, we decided that we would be all safer with no vehicles in downtown,” he said. “So, we have created a plan to harden downtown and protect all those celebrating.”

However, there will still be parking options available along New Hampshire and Vermont, as well as some city lots and parking garages.

A park-and-ride option will be available, running out of Memorial Stadium’s Lot 94. A bus will drop people off in the 700 block of Vermont Street.

Other agencies will be assisting the Lawrence Police Department this weekend. They plan to have a significant police presence downtown.

As far as those KU fans go, they said they are pumped for Saturday night.

“I’m so excited,” said KU senior Abbey Keirn. “We get so attached to all the players. We’re rooting for you guys and we are so stoked.”

Not everyone plans to participate in a watch party happening on Mass Street, though. Some are going to watch at Allen Fieldhouse and some are going to watch with friends where they live.

At Allen Fieldhouse, the Jayhawks' home court will open an hour before tip off. Members of the KU pep band and spirit squad will also be there.

Businesses want you to know that their doors will still be open all day.

Brandon Graham, the owner of Jefferson’s Bar and Grill, said they’ll start seating for the game a little later in the afternoon so that regular lunch-goers can enjoy the restaurant, too.

However, once that KU crowd comes, Graham said it could get wild.

“We know from past experiences, if we win on Saturday, that there could be 500-plus people that could walk through here and walk out,” he said. “500 to probably 1,000.”

Jefferson’s, like many other restaurants and bars, are all stocked up and ready to take on the big crowds expected on Saturday.

However, businesses up and down the street have mixed opinions about the matter. Many of that is dependent upon what they’re offering.

While many understand the reasoning behind the move, the timing soon caused concern.

“I think people understood right away that safety is and has to be the first priority and it's safety for people, for individuals, and also for businesses and property,” said Sally Zogry with Downtown Lawrence, Inc.

“The bars and restaurants will do well because there's so many watch parties and people are used to going to all the different locations to watch games throughout the season,” she said. “It's hard on retailers who really need that daytime traffic and that daytime business.”

Lynda Allen with Ernst & Sons Hardware is one of those concerned.

“The 5 a.m.,” she said, “I thought I read it wrong. I was sure it was 5 p.m., you know, that we would have our usual day of traffic and they would close it before the game. It's almost an 8 o'clock game at night, so I was rather shocked.”

She said they had planned to be closed on Sunday and that, when they saw the notification, they wondered if they should open their doors at all on Saturday because they were concerned if people would come.

“Closing the streets off at 5 a.m. in the morning will cause some delay, I think, in foot traffic for us,” she said. “Maybe we won't have any. We won't know. I can't predict that.”

However, other businesses said that, even if it has an impact on sales, it will certainly be worth it for safety.

“I think it's probably the safest way to do it,” said Ryan Owens with Jock’s Nitch. “I think it's a great idea. Yes, we lose a little bit of parking out in front, but there's still plenty of places for people to park and get down here.”

There will be a blanket sidewalk pop-up permit for downtown businesses and there will be plans to have entertainment to keep families out during the day.

Capt. Squire said the police have two plans in place for Monday if KU wins. One is for another street closure starting at 5 a.m. and the other is for it to begin at an undisclosed, later time.

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